911 Calls Show Confusion During Florida Airport Shooting

By TERRY SPENCER and TAMARA LUSH, Associated Press

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) — One call came from a terrified woman hiding in a Fort Lauderdale airport restaurant as people ran past, fleeing a gunman. Another came from a woman hiding in some bushes. A group of people called as they hid in a storage unit.

A second batch of 14 recordings of 911 calls from last month’s shooting at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport were released Thursday by the Broward Sheriff’s Office, shedding light on the confusion that reigned and on why dispatchers thought there might be multiple gunmen instead of just one.

Eleven other calls directly related to the shooting have not been cleared for release by the FBI.

None of the calls released Thursday came from the Delta Airlines baggage carousel area in Terminal 2, where authorities say Esteban Santiago, acting alone, fatally shot five people and wounded six on Jan. 6. Santiago, a 26-year-old Iraqi war veteran, was captured when he ran out of bullets. He has pleaded not guilty.

Here are excerpts from some of the calls. Dispatchers and callers are not identified.

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The passenger’s voice betrayed her fear as she told the dispatcher with the Caribbean accent she was hiding in the Jack Nicklaus Golden Bear Grill in Terminal 3, the building next to the Delta terminal. There’s a shooter, she said.

“Just stay where you are,” he said. “We have officers on the way over. Try to take cover if you can … Hide behind the bar and stay down until we give you the all clear.”

“People are freaking out. People are running,” she replied. She wants to flee, too.

Stay where you are, the dispatcher said.

She soon told him that airport security agents are telling her and others to run. She didn’t know what to do. She feared that if she got up, the gunman might see her. The dispatcher told her she should stay barricaded, but if an armed agent gave other instructions, do that.

“Sir, you have got to do a little better than this for me here,” she said in exasperation.

Soon, she decided to run outside and found herself standing under the wing of a plane with others. Crying, she said, “I can’t tell what a safe place to be is right now.”

The dispatcher offers to stay on the phone until she felt safe. He told her he would try to get an officer to the plane.

“All right, thank you sir,” she replied.

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The airport employee told the dispatcher she and a co-worker had taken cover in some bushes after they thought they heard gunshots.

“We ran off. It’s not safe.”

The dispatcher asked what she was seeing. She said she saw an armed man run past.

“I don’t remember his face — I just remember a big gun,” she said.

Most likely, it was a police officer.

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The caller told the dispatcher she had crammed into a restaurant storage unit with others after hearing shots. The dispatcher asked, “how many people are there?”

“One, two, three, four, five, six, seven. Everybody started running towards the bar and we thought we heard shots . the bartender is really having a hard time, she thinks the phones are hacked and everything. I just want to know if it’s safe to go outside.”

Stay inside, she is told.

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The teenage girl cried as the female dispatcher answered. Her mother is an airport employee and had called the girl to say someone was shooting.

“She just called me scared. I don’t know what is happening to her,” the girl sobbed.

The girl’s mother was in Terminal 4, across the parking garage from the shooting. But at this point, the dispatchers feared there were multiple shooters.

“Stay on the phone with me please,” the girl told the operator. “I am texting her right now. Oh my God. I don’t want her to make noise because he may see her.”

She told the dispatcher her mom was hiding in an office. “Get someone there, please.”

The dispatcher soon told the girl the gunman was in custody. The girl cried, hoping for a text from her mom as the call ended.

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Lush reported from Tampa, Florida.

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Follow Terry Spencer on Twitter at https://twitter.com/terryspen. His work can be found at http://bigstory.ap.org/author/terry-spencer

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